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Dam Has 'Not Increased Risk'

There has been "no apparent increase" in geological disasters in the Three Gorges reservoir area since the construction of the world's longest dam, a senior official said on Monday.

"We have seen no evidence of any increase in geological or environmental disasters in the reservoir area," said Wang Xiaofeng, director of the office of the State Council Three Gorges Project Construction Committee.

He said records showed the area, which has a brittle terrain, is prone to landslides and other geological disasters, adding that in the decades before the construction of the dam, several major landslides had occurred.

"I am not saying the hydropower development and dam construction have had no environmental impact," Wang said.

"But if we don't neglect the area and take the right measures, we can minimize the impact."

Wang said the dam's construction might have increased the chances of cave-ins and landslides, and his office is taking measures, including reforestation, cementing rock structures and stripping loose soil from periodically submerged areas, to ward off potential disasters.

Since 2002, the government has spent about 10 billion yuan on such efforts, according to official figures.

Local governments in the reservoir area have also increased their efforts to monitor ecological changes.

Over the past five years, authorities in Chongqing Municipality have set up 183 monitoring centers, and residents have been mobilized to keep watch for possible ecological changes at 2,500 vantage points in the area.

In an earlier interview with the Xinhua News Agency, Wang said monitoring facilities had found no evidence that the reservoir's construction had caused earthquakes.

"The frequency and intensity of earthquakes are similar to before," he said.

(China Daily March 18, 2008)

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